Apr 1, 2020

Provost Given Power to Make Exam Decisions Without Board Approval

Board and Council have approved measures that will allow the provost, vice-provost and senior lecturer make decisions on summer exams.

Donal MacNameeEditor
Eleanor O'Mahony for The University Times

Trinity’s provost, vice-provost and senior lecturer have been given the power to make decisions on summer exams without having to consult College’s decision-making bodies, The University Times has learned.

The move comes as Trinity battles to put in place summer exam structures amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

College Board and University Council have agreed to delegate their functions to Provost Patrick Prendergast, Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff and Senior Lecturer Kevin Mitchell, who will be able to make decisions on matters relating to summer exams – a source of concern for many students – “without having to wait a month for Council or Board to meet”.


The decision has been taken to “enable appropriate decisions to be taken in a timely fashion”, according to an internal memorandum circulated to members of University Council this week.

In the memorandum, obtained by The University Times, Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff wrote that “urgent action needs to be taken to allow for changes to the exam regulations and practices as documented in the Calendar and course handbooks”.

Board agreed to delegate its functions, “in these exceptional circumstances”, on March 26th, while a majority of Council members approved the decision this week.

All procedures put in place by Prendergast, Barkhoff or Mitchell “will be documented and communicated to the students prior to their online exams”, Barkhoff wrote in the memorandum.

They will then be brought forward for noting at subsequent meetings of Board and Council.

Barkhoff added that “urgent work is underway with the Schools to facilitate amendments to the end of year assessments overall. Decisions on this have to be made and students need to be notified on these changes as soon as possible”.

In an email statement to The University Times, Aoife Carr, a Trinity media relations officer, wrote that the decision “is simply to speed up the decision-making process so that we can react to changing circumstances and approve new measures if we need to without having to wait a month for Council or Board to meet”.

College has told students that they’ll have confirmation on what shape this year’s exams will take by the end of this week.

Carr wrote that an “announcement should go out to students on Thursday of this week with broad outlines of timing and subsequent announcements will follow with more details for individual modules over the coming days”.

Earlier this month, internal documents obtained by The University Times revealed that Trinity was considering holding exams in August, among six contingency plans approved by Council as a result of the coronavirus.

Carr wrote: “We are currently collating and assessing the plans from courses and Schools for the implementation of these various mechanisms, working on scheduling the assessment events and assignments, and putting in place the necessary structures and systems to support them.”

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union President Laura Beston today confirmed that the College is considering a proposal to implement a “no detriment” policy in this year’s summer assessments, which could mean students who get over 40 will not have their overall mark for the year brought down by summer assessments.

A petition launched yesterday by students now has almost 2,500 signatures.

In an email statement to The University Times, Beston wrote that TCDSU is “encouraged to have such an open discussion with the provost about Trinity adopting a ‘No Detriment’ Policy”.

Carr said that Trinity is “aware of the petition and of the difficult circumstances that many students are working under. All of our plans are being made with these issues very much in mind”.

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